Rebelling against science, they smashed it, dragged their people down into the ancient mists. But Ho Dyak wanted light.
The fog sea thinned before Ho Dyak, and he could see the dank rocks of the cliffs he scaled a scant twenty feet beneath his feet. The network of blue-veined pale vines that he climbed thinned even as the air itself thinned. Far below him in the lowlands the mat of agan vines was three hundred feet in depth in many places.
Higher and higher climbed Ho Dyak, his long pale face, with its full red lips and great thick-lidded purple eyes, drawn with pain. For the air of the uplands was chill. As the fog thinned, so too dropped the temperature.
Ho Dyak gripped tighter the pouch of flayed drogskin, in which five of the forbidden foot-long cylinders of metal skins nestled, as he paused for a moment to rest. It was because of them, the forbidden scrolls stored in a musty forgotten chamber of the Upper Shrine of Lalal, the One God of Arba, that Ho Dyak was now climbing into the frigid death of the cloudless uplands.
The ivory-skinned body of the man was swathed in layer upon layer of quilted and padded garments of leather and fabric. His two feet, with their webbed outstretched toes, and his short stubby middle limbs, strong-fingered webbed hands at their ends, were encased in sturdy mittenlike moccasins. Only his long upper hands were encased in stout leather gloves with four divisions-one for the thumb and the other three for his four-jointed fingers.
Over his grotesquely swollen bulk, for which his myriad garments were responsible, Ho Dyak's sword belt and the filled sheath of javelin-like darts were belted. To his crossed belts also were attached his broad-bladed machete-like knife and the throwing stick for his dwarfish spears.
No longer did he fear pursuit. The fighting priests, the dark-robed orsts of Lalal, had brought with them none of the warm garments Ho Dyak wore. Their shouts and sacred battle cries had died away on the slopes a mile or more beneath where he now perched. For the moment he was safe from their vengeance.
?I will see what lies above the fog sea,? said Ho Dyak to the unresponsive ladderlike network of agan he climbed. ?Perhaps I can, for a few short hours, see the vast plateaus that once my people ruled.?